Calgary police suspend mandatory alcohol screening for drivers due to COVID-19

Calgary police say they're suspending their relatively new practice of mandatory alcohol screening for drivers, even when there's no suspicion of intoxication, in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Making so many people blow into device too risky for officers, superintendent says

Const. Andrew Fairman demonstrates how the alcohol screening device is used in this file photo. Police have suspended their practice of mandatory alcohol screening tests, even when there is no suspicion of intoxication, due to COVID-19. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Calgary police say they're putting their relatively new practice of mandatory alcohol screening for drivers on hold in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

"We've suspended that at this point," Supt. Steve Barlow told reporters Wednesday.

"We are still, of course, dealing with any impaired drivers like we used to."

Calgary Police Service started expanding its mandatory alcohol screening practices earlier this year by equipping front-line officers with new testing devices.

Since December 2018, when new federal legislation came into effect, police have been allowed to demand a breath sample from anyone they pull over for a traffic stop or at a checkstop, even if there's no suspicion that the driver is intoxicated.

But Barlow said having so many drivers blow into devices no longer seems like a good idea, given the COVID-19 pandemic.

The suspension is in effect "until further notice," he said, but police plan to bring it back at some point in the future.

Other steps to protect officers

Police are taking other measures to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, including limiting home visits to victims of crime unless they are necessary for an investigation.

As an example, Barlow said officers called to a break-and-enter should ask themselves: "Is there an actual reason why we need to enter that residence?"

He said officers are being instructed to take their time, have more conversations with victims of crime by phone, consider what must be done for an investigation, and make entering a residence the final step, if necessary.

Officers do have protective gear to help protect them when they must engage in activities that are of higher risk of exposure, Barlow added.

"All of our officers are supplied with proper protection equipment, which would include safety glasses, respirators, coveralls if required, gloves, anything along that line," he said.


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